Channing Frye picks LeBron James as GOAT, says modern players wouldn’t want to play with Michael Jordan

The debate between Michael Jordan and LeBron James is often decided on a generational basis. Older players and fans that experienced Jordan’s peak firsthand tend to lean toward the former, while the younger segment of the NBA world more often sides with the latter. 

Channing Frye, hardly unbiased given his time as James’ teammate, raised an interesting point on that front. He took James as the greatest of all time on an appearance on NBC Sports’ Northwest’s Talkin’ Blazers podcast, he argued that Jordan’s style of play and leadership wouldn’t translate to the current game. In his mind, nobody would want to play with him. 

“He only had really one job. And that was to just score. And he did that at an amazing, amazing rate. But I don’t feel like his way of winning then would translate to what it is now. Guys wouldn’t want to play with him.”

There is at least a shred of truth in this concept. Kevin Durant, for instance, left Russell Westbrook at least in part to play in a more egalitarian system, and Jordan has a higher career usage rate than even Westbrook. Jordan’s former teammate with the Washington Wizards, Jerry Stackhouse, revealed on The Woj Pod that he regrets ever playing with Jordan. 

“Honestly, I wish I never played in Washington and for a number of reasons,” Stackhouse said, as transcribed by Chase Hughes of NBC Sports. “I felt we were on our way in Detroit before I got traded there. It was really challenging to be able to be in a situation with an idol who at this particular point, I felt like I was a better player.

“Things were still being run through Michael Jordan,” he continued. “[Head coach] Doug Collins, I love Doug, but I think that was an opportunity for him to make up for some ill moments that they may have had back in Chicago. So, pretty much everything that Michael wanted to do [we did]. We got off to a pretty good start and he didn’t like the way the offense was running because it was running a little bit more through me. He wanted to get a little more isolations for him on the post, of course, so we had more isolations for him on the post. And it just kind of spiraled in a way that I didn’t enjoy that season at all. The kind of picture I had in my mind of Michael Jordan and the reverence I had for him, I lost a little bit of it during the course of that year.”

As a fellow North Carolina Tar Heel and exactly the sort of scorer Frye is likely referencing, Stackhouse’s testimony is damning. 

But it is also overly simplistic. Jordan was a far more capable passer than he got credit for, though it was a skill he certainly underutilized. While he didn’t have to recruit as vigorously as modern players do, it should be noted that if Dennis Rodman hadn’t wanted to play with Jordan, that critical trade likely would have been squashed. 

The truth, as always, is more nuanced than a single soundbite can present it as. There is a certain kind of player that would likely loath playing on Jordan’s team and watching him shoot. Others would find the nearly guaranteed championship contention so rewarding that it wouldn’t matter. Frye, it seems, falls in the first camp. 

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